Profile updated October 2016.
Agritourism is a fast growing segment of the tourism industry. More and more agritourism destinations are offering different varieties of experiences to meet the needs of all different customers. Equine agritourism is becoming a big part of agritourism experiences and according to Vaugeois 2012, equine tourism is travel inspired by the horse, for recreation, leisure and business, encompassing all activity that has the horse as its focus. Equine agritourism can include:
- Horse camps
- Trail rides
- Horseback riding lessons
- Boarding facilities
- Reproduction services
- Dude ranches
- Horse racing
According to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, there were more than 3.6 million horses on farms in the United States. Texas accounted for 10 percent of the total, followed by California and Kentucky.
The U.S. horse industry contributes $39 billion in direct economic impact, according to a 2005 study conducted by Deloitte Consulting LLP for the American Horse Council Foundation. The U.S. horse population was estimated at 9.2 million.
In a separate study on “backyard” horses released in 2007, the American Horse Council found more than 3.9 million horses were used specifically for recreational activities.
The backyard horse study also indicated the effect on gross domestic product was $32 billion. Of that, $11.9 billion was in direct effects and $20 billion in indirect and induced effects from horses used for the recreation industry.
First you need to decide what type of equine tourism you will be offering. Do you specialize one type of equine tourism over a different type? Figure out what will set you about from other businesses in your area. What do you have that has potential? This could include a good location such as access and riding trails, landscape, or your own personal skills that set you apart such as training or riding skills. Based on that, brainstorm ideas about products and services you could offer. After this, define who your target market will be and how to contact them. You will be marketing to a niche clientele and you need to understand your audience and offer a satisfying customer experience. Have a sales plan and advertise to your target market. Think of the 4 Ps when developing your marketing strategies. What is your product/service, price, place or location, and promotion.
Before you put your idea to life, create a business plan for your equine tourism operation. The business plan should include information on the business concept, market analysis, marketing and sales, staff and structure, financing, budget, risk analysis and more. Decide what you will need in order to make your business successful and stand out. This would include, time, finances, horses, tack and other equipment, employees, and physical infrastructures such as buildings and trails.
In order to successfully have an equine tourism business, one needs to have a broad range of knowledge in horses, guests, employees, equipment, tack, facilities and business issues. With any type of tourism, you will be working with the public and people from the community. Having great customer service and the ability to work with others will help your business grow. If you will be needing to hire staff decide who that will be and what type of person you are looking for.
Once you’ve decided what type of equine tourism you will be offering, pick a price point. Offering multiple packages at different price points is appealing to customers. For example, some may be traveling a good distance for an all-day or overnight trail ride or a customer could be local just looking for an afternoon trail ride. This is where you charge a different amount for different experiences.
According to a survey from the University of Maine, the average annual cost of horse ownership is $3,876 per horse. This puts the average monthly expense anywhere from $200-$325.
Having an equine tourism operation can have significant upfront costs such as the horses, general care for the horses such as feed, veterinarian, and farrier, buildings, equipment, and tack. Stay organized with your business income and expenses to keep things running smoothly. Hiring an accountant could save you time and money. Taxes and unexpected startup costs can be a challenge.
Agricultural Tourism - This site provides a list of agritourism links, resources and information on managing an operation, as well as a database of agritourism operations.
American Horse Council - A national association representing all segments of the horse industry.
A Good Practice Guide to Equine Tourism – The Riding Nordic Breeds Project
Boarding Horses, Agricultural Alternatives, Penn State University, 2004 - Discusses planning an operation, facilities, options, marketing approaches and more.
Entertainment Farming and Agri-Tourism, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), NCAT, 2004.
Outlook for Outdoor Recreation in the Northern United States, U.S. Forest Service, USDA, September 2013
Promoting Tourism in Rural America, National Agricultural Library, Washington, D.C.
Green Aces Riding Stables, Jamesport, Missouri - This stable, next to Poosey State Park, is a well-known hot spot for Missouri equestrian lovers and riders alike.
Twisted Tree Farm, Scottsdale, Arizona - This operation trains beginners to advanced riders, as well as boards horses.